If we’re going to be successful in philanthropy, we have got to ask ourselves the right questions. I’m going to put forward five questions today that I think will help us be effective in these challenging times.

  • ARE WE DREAMING BIG ENOUGH?  The truth is: There are no limits to what philanthropy can accomplish in this world if we dream big and take risks.
  • ARE WE DOING ENOUGH TO INTENTIONALLY BENEFIT AND EMPOWER VULNERABLE AND MARGINALIZED COMMUNITIES?  Those who are fortunate have an obligation to give back to help those who are not as fortunate. With most ambitious philanthropic visions, you won’t be able to succeed in accomplishing your goals if you don’t intentionally benefit and empower underserved communities.
  • IS OUR PRIVILEGE MAKING US OVERLY CAUTIOUS? We see this all the time in our research at NCRP. Foundations aren’t investing the South, or in rural communities, or in communities of color, because they don’t think there is capacity there. But the truth is, there is a ton of capacity – but nonprofit capacity looks different in the South than it does here in the Acela corridor. Our privilege and our bias don’t let us see the full potential.
  • ARE WE GIVING IN WAYS THAT PROMOTE THE HEALTH, GROWTH, AND EFFECTIVENESS OF OUR GRANTEE PARTNERS AND THOSE THEY SERVE? There are two essential things your grantees must have if they are going to maximize their effectiveness and impact. They have got to have sufficient unrestricted revenue, and they have to have long-term commitments.
  • ARE WE WIELDING OUR POWER AND ALL THE TOOLS AT OUR DISPOSAL TO BUILD THE WORLD WE ENVISION? Nonfinancial capital represents institutional and individual power that can be effectively used to influence others in order to achieve equitable, long-term change.

Read more about asking foundations the right questions by Aaron Dorfman at the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy.